WINSTON COUNTY - Winston County Schools’ radio frequency is for sale, and is expected to bring $2 million, thanks to a partnership with the University of North Alabama.
Years ago, the Winston County Board of Education entered into an agreement with the federal government which allowed public schools to request a radio frequency license, school officials explained.
Since Greg Pendley has been Winston County Schools superintendent, the Winston County School Board has renewed its license to have this frequency, Pendley said. However, an amendment to a ruling put in place by the Federal Communications Commission means a school system can not only use or lease out the frequency, but can also sell it.
The 2.5 GHz band - which is divided into broadband radio service and educational broadband service--is currently available for commercial service. The band can currently provide high-speed, high-capacity broadband service, including two-way internet service via cellular communication systems.
On July 11, 2019, the FCC released a report and order, FCC 19-62, which modernized the outdated regulatory frame for the 2.5 GHz band to make it available for advanced wireless services, including 5G.
The report and order gives more flexibility in how this spectrum can be used, as well as provides opportunities for other entities to access the spectrum, the document further stated.
“Much of this spectrum, which is prime for next generation wireless broadband operations, has been underutilized for many years,” the FCC document stated. “This rulemaking was another step toward closing the digital divide, particularly in rural areas that lack reliable wireless broadband services.”
The main reason frequency would be purchased is due to 5G networking as far as cellular and internet service, Pendley explained.
The school system already has such a network, so it doesn’t need the frequency, Pendley noted.
At one time, the Winston County School board leased out the frequency to an entity that paid them roughly $400 a month. The contract was terminated when payments from that entity stopped, school officials said.
“You look at it as a road these cellular companies would want,” Pendley stated about the frequency. “We have the (frequencies) that are most desirable in this region. It covers the entirety of northwest Alabama, reaching over into Tennessee and Mississippi. That’s a huge area this frequency will be useful for,” Pendley added.
The county hopes to bundle its frequency with one from UNA through a partnership between the two entities. This will make the combined frequency have a greater area of usage, authorities said.
“It helps both entities,” said Pendley, “because we have the frequencies that are better, and UNA has the ones also. They want to sell it just like we do.
“So, if we can bundle all of that into one package, it makes it much more desirable for people to purchase,” Pendley pointed out.
A request for a proposal will be sent out next year, he said.
“We’ve heard numbers anywhere from $2 million to $12 million,” Pendley said about the bid amount that could be placed on the packaging of the frequencies. “The Winston County board should end up with around $2 million. That’s low end.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.